Carol Bartz's first appearance as Yahoo's new CEO was short, but she came out guns-a-blazin'. Autodesk's former CEO and executive chairman clearly wants to be seen as an assertive executive, not a shrinking violet.
During a 20-minute call with press and analysts, Bartz mostly stuck to a predictable script--Yahoo's valuable assets, strong employees, shareholder value, blah blah blah--and avoided any mention of strategic options such as selling Yahoo's search business to Microsoft.
But she showed flashes of liveliness that, doubtless not accidentally, helped present her as a straight-talking character who's firmly seized the reins.
A more retiring person could have declined comment when asked how long it would take to scrutinize Yahoo's assets. Bartz took it as an opportunity to try to wrestle the initiative away from the punditocracy and put it in her Sunnyvale, Calif., office.
"Let's not put ourselves in some crazy timeline. Let's give this company some frigging breathing room. Everybody on the outside deciding what Yahoo should or shouldn't do--that's going to stop," she said. Her first meeting with Yahoo's managers was set for 10 minutes later, she also said.
Another moment came when asked about how her background at a company selling software to companies would serve her at an Internet company selling ads and serving a large consumer audience. Bartz was quick to slap down the doubts about her expertise as nonsense.
"I didn't know CAD (computer-aided design) when I joined Autodesk, I didn't know hardware when I joined Sun," she said. "I have brain power to understand what it takes."
This is a good time to avoid any appearance of a wet noodle, of course, especially after all the vacillation in 2008 over Microsoft's various offers. But by most accounts, it wasn't just a pretense. Bartz really is a no-nonsense executive, as my colleague Charlie Cooper attests.
For actually steering Battleship Yahoo, though she'll need more than assertiveness. But at least there won't be any doubt over who's got the tiller: Former CEO Jerry Yang is stepping back to his background role of chief Yahoo, while President Sue Decker is stepping away from Yahoo altogether after helping Bartz during a transitional period.